Temple Mount Activists Will Turn Archaeological Park Into Concert Venue, Israeli Authority Warns

Members of the Temple Mount Faithful, who seek to restore Temple worship - including animal sacrifice - want to hold a concert celebrating 'World Creation Day,' despite authorities' opposition

Preparations for the concert in Davidson park, Jerusalem, Israel, August 2018
Emil Salman

Temple activists from the Davidson Center Archaeological Park under the Temple Mount will hold a concert of Jewish liturgical music on Monday to celebrate what its organizers call “World Creation Day.”

It will be the third event organized by the so-called Temple Mount Faithful at the site. Officials at the Israel Antiquities Authority oppose the use of the park for the event.

Members of the Temple Mount Faithful seek to restore Temple worship, including animal sacrifice, and encourage Jews to visit the Temple Mount.

>> Number of Jews visiting the Temple Mount rising fast, and so is the controversy

The concert was the idea of Prof. Hillel Weiss, a leader of the Temple Mount Faithful and spokesman for the New Sanhedrin, the organization behind the project.

The date of the concert marks the first day of the start of the biblical Creation, 7 days before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. Weiss says Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez is expected to attend the concert. Hernandez was slated to take part in the torchlighting ceremony on Israel’s Independence Day this year but canceled on short notice. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said it had no information about a visit by the Honduran president this week.

“This concert has been held since the Creation,” Weiss told Haaretz. “The director and the conductor is God.” Weiss said the idea for the concert came to him last year, but the Sanhedrin didn’t have the money needed for production. This year, he said, the organization raised the needed funds through the sale of medallions that it commissioned.

A Wedding in Davidson park, Jerusalem, Israel, 2015
Emil Salman

“We would be happy if the state were to engage in what is meaningful instead of passing the nation-state law, that what all the Jews throughout the generations sought. We’re not afraid of the non-Jews and we try to explain and to welcome and to cause good, and not, heaven forfend, war,” Weiss added.

According to the police permit issued for the concert, around 1,000 people are expected to take part.  

For members of the group,  the archaeological park is the nearest site in which events connected to the Temple can be held.

During the Sukkot festival last fall, Temple activists reenacted the water libation ceremony and on Passover they held a partial animal-sacrifice exercise. In previous years the police prohibited the holding of such events so close to the Temple Mount, for fear of violence from Muslim worshippers, but both rites were held without major incident.

This year the criticism is coming from the Israel Antiquities Authority, which seeks to preserve the park’s stated purpose as a tourism and educational site rather than an event venue. The growing number of private events at the park — two weeks ago a lavish and particularly large bar mitzvah was held there for a young member of the Safra family — has drawn the archaeologists’ ire.

“The park was built almost entirely with donations from Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the place is meant for archaeology, tourism and preservation, it’s not a bar mitzvah hall or a wedding hall or a place for events with a religious or ideological character, and this process is growing,” says Yuval Baruch, the Jerusalem District archaeologist of the IAI.

Daniel Shukrun, the secretary of the government-owned Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, rejects the criticism. “Why is it that in Caesarea, Masada and Beit She’an it’s OK to hold events and here it’s prohibited? It must be remembered that there are bigger events at almost all the other sites. There are almost no site where the authorities don’t hold events, because there’s an understanding that the connection between the authentic location and the audience is significant.”